Key Publication: History of Fishes, 1686

In 1686 Ray published his ‘History of Fishes’. He created the first scientific classification system focusing on external features – he departed from the traditional definition of fish as any aquatic animals to those who had hairless skin and fins, lacked feet and were unable to live freely or long without water.

The book features beautiful illustrated plates which were funded by members of the Royal Society, including Samuel Pepys and Christopher Wren. The plates show how important the Society considered the work to be.

Ray had studied many of the fish on his European travels, where he visited markets and ports looking for new species, over 230 of which he finally identified.

The Pond, or Frog-fish or Sea Diver. One of the illustrative plates sponsored by Christopher Wren